Black Panther opens February 16, the latest link in the everlasting chain of superhero movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But this one’s a little different. With African-American director Ryan Coogler and a nearly all-black, all-star cast—including Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker and Sterling K. Brown—this Hollywood adventure of the African king T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther) battling the forces of evil is unprecedented. Advance ticket sales have already outpaced the pre-sales records of all previous Marvel movies, so a Star Wars-level fanatical frenzy seems imminent. Marketing professional Frederick Joseph decided to take matters into his own hands to make sure young black kids don’t miss out, with a superheroic act of his own.
Last Friday, Joseph launched a crowdfunding initiative on GoFundMe in order to raise $10,000 for children from the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem to catch Black Panther on the silver screen. In six days, donations have totaled over $39,000. The astonishing buzz generated by Joseph’s crusade (see #BlackPantherChallenge across all social media) includes celebrities contributing their own dollars, among them director J.J. Abrams, Chelsea Clinton and ESPN anchor Jemele Hill. Under executive director Dominique Jones, the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem serves over 1,000 children between the ages of 6 and 18. Their overarching goals include instilling academic excellence, positive community involvement and personal health and wellness values in the youth. Through Joseph’s campaign, the Harlem branch of this national organization will send its youngsters to see reflections of themselves in next month’s highly anticipated winter blockbuster.
“We’re committed to making sure that our kids see themselves in a positive light,” says Dominique Jones, “and see their future by exposing them to people that look like them who are doing amazing things. That’s all a part of our DNA as a Club. Frederick Joseph is just emblematic of that. It’s what we’re trying to show our kids every day: that it’s about service, community, building your skills and your confidence to be able to affect change. Those are the qualities that we wanna develop, but we also want our kids to feel powerful. And that’s what Black Panther is gonna be about.”
Naturally, the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem has been blown away by Joseph’s campaign, and the generosity of over 1,100 donators. Black Panther represents the rare opportunity for black youth to be inspired and entertained by an African superhero, to directly relate to a major player in the Marvel superhero universe who looks just like them. Though the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) filled the sidekick role in the bygone sequels to Captain America, and War Machine (Don Cheadle) occupied a similar function in the Iron Man films, Black Panther is full-tilt black magic. Set in the Afrofuturistic wonderland of Wakanda (a fictional African nation), the film also serves as a corrective to all the twisted notions Hollywood has offered up of the Motherland over the years.
The “Help Children See Black Panther” GoFundMe can be contributed to here.